Winter Paddle Boarding

Winter paddle boarding what to wear and how to do it

Now that we’ve crept into the colder months, all those fun summer activities we listed seem to have run their course and passed their prime time. But that’s not true at all! In fact, the activities such as trail walking, running, and hiking and indoor fitness classes are just as applicable in the winter as they are in the summer. But what about winter paddle boarding?

That doesn’t seem to make much sense upon hearing, at first. All water activities, actually, seem a little out of reach unless it’s lap swimming at an indoor pool. If you’re up for a challenge, though, incorporating or continuing certain summer water activities into your winter workouts is plenty feasible.

Winter paddle boarding is a hobby that many don’t want to give up because of colder temperatures and frigid waters – and you don’t have to, either, if you’re willing to take the correct precautions.

Considerations for a Safe Winter Paddle Boarding Experience

1. Weather

Just like summer paddle boarding, weather plays a very big part in your adventures. Precipitation isn’t anyone’s friend on the paddleboard, as it makes the board slick and difficult to remain upright on. Pairing this with frigid waters should you fall in, and you have much less favorable circumstances than you would if you fell in during the summer.

To make sure you don’t get caught in a winter storm or a low-visibility environment, always check the weather before setting out on your winter paddle board journey. It’s good to remember that winter weather can be much more unpredictable than other seasons, and attempting to ride the front-end of any storm probably won’t work out in your favor.

These conditions may also change the environment you think you know, as well as other features such as current strength and the stillness of the water. If you aren’t properly prepared, winter weather can play a much larger factor than you think, so always take it into account, especially when dressing for it.

2. Clothing

What should you wear when winter paddle boarding? Clothing is one thing that can make or break your winter paddle boarding excursions – we all know it’s cooler on the water, and you need to dress for that, even if you’re deciding to go paddle boarding during a mid-winter warm spell. Dress in layers, and try to avoid cotton, as it stays wet once it gets wet. If it’s your primary layer and it absorbs moisture, you might be a little colder than you anticipated.

Your clothing lineup should include all of the following:

  • Water Shoes
    • Insulative boots made of neoprene or other waterproof materials work best to keep your feet warm while still giving you a good grip on your board.
  • Gloves
    • Make sure your gloves are flexible enough to grip your oar
  • Hats and/or Ear Warmers
    • Most body heat is lost through the head, so you’ll want to make sure to cover it up! Beanies and other full-head covers are better suited than ear-warmers, but you might want to bring both in case your hat doesn’t cover your ears.
  • Sunglasses
    • Make sure you can see past any reflections on the water. Fishing sunglasses can even help you see what’s below the surface better, too!
  • Wetsuit or Drysuit
    • If you think you’ll come into contact with the water, rely on a wetsuit to keep you warm, but a drysuit is just fine if you don’t think you’ll fall in!
  • Body Warmer or Appropriate Covering

3. Time and Place

If you’ve only just started paddle boarding, or you’ve only ever paddled in one location, winter might not be the best season to branch out. Try to stick to locations you know with still water and not a lot of ice chunks or frozen-over, slushy zones. Sticking close to the shore is a good idea, as well, since those will be the warmer waters and with more places to stop should something go wrong.

It also might be tempting to go when you’d normally work out before or after work, but with days getting shorter and darkness both lingering longer into the day and settling in earlier in the evening, you don’t want to be caught on the water in the dark. Anyone else on the water needs that light to be able to see you, and you need the light to see where you’re going. It’s always colder without the sun, so you’ll need to plan ahead for the sunrise or sunset that marks either the beginning or the end of your winter paddle boarding trip.

4. Gear

Besides clothing, your paddle boarding gear might stay relatively the same, depending on how light you pack and how experienced you are. In the winter, you should always have and use a SUP leash, so that in the case of an accident that ends up with you in the water, you have the quickest means to track down your board and exit the water without expending too much precious energy.

Your phone should also be on-hand, in a waterproof case, and physically attached to either you or your board for easy access and safety. Especially if you’re paddling solo (which is something we’ll cover momentarily), you’ll want a way to contact a friend if something goes awry, you lose more energy than you expected before you get back to your entry site, or unexpected weather rolls in.

5. Company

Since open water activities hold more risk than controlled activities, you always need to have a point of contact. Phones are a great and necessary tool to have, but in the event that you lose the device, or it runs out of power, someone should either be with you or know where you are and what time they should expect the “I’m Okay!” call.

Paddling is always more fun with a buddy, though, so it’s highly suggested that you find a friend to take on the winter waters with you! This goes for both winter and summer, however, and anthropocentric safety measure should never be overlooked.

6. The “After”

Having a warm-up bag ready for you when you get back to your mode of transportation is an easy way to combat the chill of winter. A warm change of clothes that include thick socks, a comfy sweater or sweatshirt, and some throw-on sweats can get your body temperature right back up – bonus points if they’re oversized for . Having a towel in case of any water accidents is also a necessity, and towels that you can attach to your body for an easy change outside of the car can be super helpful and much easier than trying to wriggle your way out of your suit in your seat.

A lot of winter paddle boarders also pack a thermos full of something warm to eat and/or drink to refuel after your adventures on the water, and you should always have water around to hydrate! Even on cold days, you still sweat and need to drink water or some other rehydration beverage to replenish your body, so make sure you grab a drink before you leave!

Are You Ready?

Now that you have all this knowledge, you can include winter paddle boarding on your “to-do” list in these cold months! Make sure to warm up those arm muscles and stretch out those legs before you get moving, and don’t lock your knees! Are you ready to paddle? Check out the best locations to paddle board (remember to know your surroundings, though) in Louisville!

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, double-board certified physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help. Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC is accepting new patients, and same day appointments are available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC today at 502-212-2663.